(Or, why do we go on courses like this, anyway?)
I like my crust wrinkly. Corrugated. Pimply.
I live in an area where there's nary a wrinkle or blemish to be found.
I'm referring, of course, to the earth - planet earth. And my complaint
about the earth around where we live stems from the fact that we like
visiting high and low places, and enjoying the accompanying scenery,
challenge, adventure and achievement.
n order to go to the more challenging of earth's wrinkles, one needs certain skills: for example, the ability to scale steep rock; the ability to travel safely on snow; the ability to navigate crevasse fields on glaciers; and, above all, a good 'mountain sense', or ability to make informed, rational decisions based on knowledge and experience. All of these things together comprise what is commonly referred to as mountaineering.
The fact that I (and my outdoorsy friends) want to do this sort of thing is made a bit more difficult, living out here as we do in the flat east of North America. If we lived out west, perhaps things might be different: Initial forays up easy hiking peaks might have led to more difficult scrambling up steeper and higher, rocky summits. Which may have in turn led to learning some simple climbing skills on weekend trips... which may have naturally progressed to harder rock, to snow, and to glaciers. You know what they say: the sky's the limit!
Long ago I'd decided that the only way to kick-start my mountain skills was to take a mountaineering course: to that end, in 1998 I took a 13-day mountaineering course with an American outfit. The course was great, and I learned a lot. The problem was was a lack of people with which to climb. In subsequent years, when I visited a locale with mountains, we were always limited with regards to which routes and which mountains we could climb, which in turn meant that as time went by, all those skills I'd learned went rusty.
Fast forward to 2006. Most of my circle of hiking and climbing buddies hadn't had any formal mountaineering training. My thought was that if we could all get some mountaineering training, then we would be in a position to try some moderate mountaineering - get the ball rolling again, so to speak.
much petitioning, we wound up witha group of seven: myself, Jenn, Pu,
Brian, Peter, Sara, and Catherine. Good potential for the development
of a core group of basic 'mountaineering-capable' people!
After some searching and researching
on the internet, we settled on a company in British Columbia (Canada)
West Mountaineering School
They had a fairly comprehensive
, and at a reasonable price, too. Given that the entire
class was 'us', we were also able to run the course as a 'custom'
If we wanted to deviate from the course curriculum, we'd be able to do
that. The courses are usually held in the Coast Range north of Vancouver.
Typically, the first few days are held in Squamish - a well-known climbing
destination, and the rest somewhere in the backcountry.
We had a slight problem with our group size, though. Seven was an awkward number, as the company's guide-to-client ratio had a maximum of six. Seven meant an extra guide was required, and so we ended up having to pay more per person. On the plus side, we got a pretty good ratio of two instructors to seven clients.
Our course started on July ninth. By the eighth, we were all gathered at the Mountain Equipment Co-op store in downtown Vancouver, purchasing the required final odds-and-ends. From there it was time to head to Squamish, the location of the first two days of our course.
We stayed at a campground just outside of the town of Squamish. We picked it mostly because it was the closest campground to town. Rather than kick things off with dehydrated meals, we all opted to head into town for dinner, ending up at the Howe Sound brewpub, a decent spot that seems fairly popular with the outdoorsy crowd. We returned here several times during our stay in Squamish.